Wednesday, February 06, 2019

When Linda Ronstadt and Others Went 'New Wave' for the '80s

My Bonnie Tyler post yesterday got my friend Seth thinking about another musical phenomenon: when singers and bands reinvent themselves -- with completely different personas and styles in different decades -- and end up succeeding both times, and how they frequently end up having two "trademark" songs. (Heart and the Pointer Sisters, for starters.) I loved the idea -- and Linda Ronstadt's new wave album, 1980's "Mad Love" immediately came to mind, where she covered three Elvis Costello songs, including this favorite of mine.

But Linda was in good company ...

Others from the era include Rosanne Cash -- whose hair matched her new-found cowpunk sound. (Not a coincidence that she and Maria McKee of Lone Justice both recorded "Never Be You," with the latter's winding up on the "Streets of Fire" soundtrack and the former's on Cash's crossover album "Rhyme & Reason," featuring her cover of John Hiatt's new wave girl anthem "Pink Bedroom."

She's a punky princess in the video for "I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me."

Cash's stepsister Carlene Carter also rode the new wave, with her synthy "C'est C Bon" LP. ("Third Time Charm" was yet another miss that sounded like a hit.) 

And the list of people new wave happened to went on ... 


"Never Should Have Started"

The best of all had to have been Cher, who pulled a Tori Spelling at an Aaron Spelling audition and formed a "punk band" without putting her name out front. Black Rose recorded one bomb album before disbanding.

But Cher is nothing if not persistent. Two years later she returned as herself, releasing  "I Paralyze" ... which pretty much summed up the record-buying public's reaction to the endeavor. 

Diana Ross, who had a more successful turn than Cher as a Disco Diva, had the new wave sound down to pat on "Pieces of Ice," even if the video was more "Cats" than Clash ...

Carly Simon told us "Why," which was a smash in the U.K. when released as a single from the soundtrack for the sex comedy "Soup for One," but never got a U.S. release. This was strange given that her album from a year or two earlier, "Come Upstairs," had been a success with its synth-driven songs including "Jesse," which a pal refers to has a "sublime low-self-esteem anthem"!

By the time she released "Spoiled Girl" in 1985 -- at the height of the new wave -- people had lost interest in her again. It didn't help that "Tired of Being Blonde" was inferior to "Why."

Chameleon Bette Midler -- who'd gone disco with 1979's "Thighs and Whispers" -- attempted to cash in on the new wave with a cover Marshall Crenshaw's "My Favorite Waste of Time," which had been the B-side of his only Top 40 hit, "Someday, Someway." Fans weren't buying the Divine Miss M's latest makeover. 

Kim Carnes -- who started out more a country and folk singer -- was already (unwittingly?) riding the Blondie bandwagon when "Bette Davis Eyes" topped the charts in '81. But her "Voyeur" followup was a full-blown attempt at new wave ... 

"Anxiety (Get Nervous)" was Pat's attempt, although the album cover -- which is kind of a cousin of Debbie Harry's "Koo Koo" -- was probably the biggest shift in style.

Billy Joel and his band looked the part in 1980's "You May Be Right."

And then there was Sheena Easton, who wound up singing the James Bond theme when Blondie backed out -- they'd written their own and weren't interested in doing a Bill Conti song -- reached maximum new waveness with "Swear." It stalled at No. 80. Turns out fans were much more interested in her being a nymph than a new waver ...

Olivia Newton-John had the spikey hair and the synthesizers out in full force for this inferior follow-up to "Twist of Fate" (1983)

This was a real shocker at the time. Shell Kepler, who played goody-two-shoes nurse Amy Vining on "General Hospital," must have tired of Dr. Noah Drake getting all the attention, so released a five-song EP of new wave songs under the moniker Shell and the Crush. Perhaps the most shocking thing? It was kind of good.

And last but certainly not least, Shaun Cassidy tried to reinvent himself in 1980 with the new wavey "Wasp." It featured an Adam Ant-ish album cover and and production by Todd Rundgren, who would later helm the Psychedelic Furs' breakthrough album. It also included Talking Heads and David Bowie covers but never found an audience, effectively ending the onetime teenybopper's recording career.


B said...

Thanks for this post! Such a blast to go through all of these!

Dave in Texas said...

Thanks Kenneth- great post! You could add Melissa Manchester "You Should Hear How She Talks About You" as it was 'edgier' than her usual releases.

Claude Remains said...

Fabulous!! It always intrigues me that this was referred to as New Wave in America as in the UK it wasn't given any such moniker.

James Sanford said...

Kim Carnes' VOYEUR is a stunning album that should have been a much bigger hit. Those chilled-out synthesizers and that raw, husky voice -- not to mention the METROPOLIS-inspired cover art!

Unknown said...

Hayyyyy :)